Once the tiny village of Errold's Grove, located on the border of Valdemar at the edge of the vast Pelagiris Forest, had been a prosperous community, trading the unique plants and fungi which grew in the dense forest for use in dying textiles. But that was before the mage-storms came.
The mage-storms had devastated the forest, transforming many of its creatures into kideous beasts, warping the very land, and shattering the laws of magic which had governed the world since time immemorial. Only the bravest souls ventured into the Pelagiris now, but young Darian and his parents were among those courageous few.
Darian's parents were hunters who worled in the strange new forest with intelligence and caution, trapping the bizarre change-creatures which had been created by the mage-storms and selling their fantastic hides. But Darian had not accompanied them on their last expedition into the Pelagiris, a hunt from which they never returned.
Now a year after his parents' disappearance, Darian is a ward of Errold's Grove, apprenticed to Wizard Justyn, a bumbling old man who lost most of his powers when the world's magic altered. Justyn insists that Darian has "talent," and that he will be a danger to himself and everyone around him if he isn't properly trained. But to Darian, still sorrowing over his parents' loss, magic is just nonsense, a waste of time and energy. The only place he finds solace is in the "dreaded" forest, where he can hide among the huge trees and mourn in privacy.
And it is from this secret retreat on the edge of the Pelagiris that Darian sees an army of northern barbarians sack and burn Errold's Grove, and watches his mentor Justyn die in a last desperate attempt to save the village.
Pursued by barbarians, alone and helpless, Darian flees into the deep forest. But the vast and dangerous Pelagiris Forest houses more than the monstrous creatures created by the mage-storms. The Hawkbrothers, an old and magical race, dwell in the ancient woods, and Darian's flight will lead him on a path of discovery which neighter Justyn nor his parents could ever have predicted.
Mercedes Ritchie Lackey (born 1950) is an American writer of fantasy novels. Many of her novels and trilogies are interlinked and set in the world of Velgarth, mostly in and around the country of Valdemar. Her Valdemar novels form a complex tapestry of interaction between human and non-human protagonists with many different cultures and social mores.
Her other main world is one much like our own, but it includes clandestine populations of elves, mages, vampires, and other mythical beings. The Bedlam's Bard books describe a young man with the power to work magic through music; the SERRAted Edge books are about racecar driving elves; and the Diana Tregarde thrillers center on a Wiccan who combats evil.
She has also